When it comes to advertising, the holidays certainly are the most wonderful time of the year. Between Thanksgiving and New Years, both television and social media are brimming with the most festive, creative ads of the year. The best part? While most of the campaigns are promoting a product, they’re also promoting messages of social good–themes of brotherhood, family, and love are the centerpiece of most holiday promotions. During a time when it’s so easy to get overwhelmed by the need to spend, there’s nothing more refreshing than brands that take a step back to focus on what really matters. Here’s a winter wrap-up of the six most poignant ads that premiered this holiday season.
Microsoft’s “Reindeer Games”
In this adorable 60-second spot, Microsoft introduces us to Owen, just as he’s about to beat his favorite video game. Owen has Escobar Syndrome, a congenital defect that limits his mobility, but not his love for gaming. The ad shows Gunnar, Owen’s best friend, gathering all of their neighborhood friends to watch Owen’s victory–achieved with the help of Microsoft’s assistive gaming technology. When Owen wins, the neighborhood kids rejoice, and a dance party ensues. We love this inclusive spot because it reminds us that when everybody plays, we all win.
Petco’s “Saving Up”
How much is that doggie in the window? In this 90-second claymation spot by Petco, a little boy learns that shelter pets are friends worth saving for. The ad features one young boy shoveling snow to earn spare change in the hopes of buying a shiny red bike he sees in a window–but one afternoon, he meets a three-legged shelter puppy sitting in the window of a Petco next door. When he gets the red bike on Christmas morning, he realizes that he couldn’t care less about the bike–it was the dog that stole his heart. After using his hard-earned money to adopt the shelter pet, he redesigns the bike into an assistive device that helps the three-legged pup get around easier. This feel good ad is perfect for the holidays and shows us that it’s not the gifts you get that matter – it’s about what you’re able to give.
Apple’s “Share Your Gifts”
Apple’s 2018 holiday spot is perhaps one of the most beautiful ads of 2018. Taking a break from its product-centric ads of years past, this commercial is more short film than advertisement. It’s an animated story about a young woman who creates beautiful works of art, but is too afraid to share them. She keeps her art hidden away in a locked box, but one afternoon, her dog knocks the box through an open window, sending hundreds of pieces fluttering into the wind. She rushes to catch them, until she realizes how amazed people are by what she’s done. We love this ad because it empowers creators not just to create but to quiet their fears and share their talents with the world.
John Lewis’s “The Boy and the Piano”
While retailer John Lewis & Partners may be based in the UK, its annual Christmas advertisement goes viral every year, and 2018 is no exception. This year’s spot features the legendary Elton John (with the punny hashtag #EltonJohnLewis) alongside his past selves. The spot begins with present-day Elton sitting at a piano, playing the iconic Your Song, as the ad travels backwards in time throughout his career. Elton’s rise to fame is featured in reverse as the song continues to play, ending with a scene of him as a little boy, receiving his first piano as a gift. This beautifully made, touching spot proves that gifts are not about what you give–they’re about how that gift can inspire the person you give it to.
California Lotto’s “The Gift is in the Giving”
During the holiday season, it can seem like there’s worlds between us and our neighbors–with so much separating us, it can be hard to bridge the gap between strangers and friends. In this ad from the California Lotto, one woman endeavors to change that. She slips cards under the doors of each apartment in her complex, which contain a kind note and a small gift. When she comes home from work the next day, she arrives to a winter wonderland–her neighbors, inspired by her gesture, decorated the halls and hosted a party to get to know one another on the roof. It ends with the tagline “The Gift is in the Giving,” a reminder that it takes only a small gesture to unite people.
Erste’s “What Would Christmas Be Without Love?”
We’re not crying, you’re crying! This ad from British financial services company Erste is one of the cutest stories we’ve seen all year. The animated spot centers around an adorable hedgehog, who feels excluded at school by other woodland creatures. No one will play with him because of his spikes–they pop balls, poke people and make it hard to go on the swings. When his classmates notice how lonely he is, they present him with a gift–a matching scarf, buried in packing peanuts. They pop the packing peanuts onto his quills and are able to play with him without being hurt. In a spot with zero brand promotions to be found, it ties inclusivity, friendship, and self-confidence together in 90 precious seconds.
The holidays are the perfect time for brands to flex their creative abilities–viewers are feeling festive and warmer than ever, so those who can create stunning spots are almost guaranteed virality. However, creating the perfect Christmas ad takes more than creative skill–it takes a focus on social good and positive messaging to truly resonate.